HEIF Image Container Format Leverages H.265/HEVC to Store Photos and Image Sequences

A few years ago, Google introduced WebP image format leveraging VP8 video codec, and the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) has decided to do something similar but instead of using VP8, they went with their own H.265/HEVC video codec for HEIF image container format.

HEIF stands for High Efficiency Image File, and is defined by ISO/IEC 23008-12 (MPEG-H Part 12). The storage of the data is based on ISO Base Media File Format (ISOBMFF), and HEIF appears to be especially useful to replace animated GIFs file with better quality and much lower sizes, as well as burst photos.

HEIF vs Animated GIF – Click here to see the animations in action

HEIF also appears to compress a little better than JPEG photo with similar quality, but HEIF appears to fallback to JPEG codec sometimes, so it may be improvement in the way metadata is handled? The comparison table show the different features between HEIF and other well-known image format (JEG, WebP, GIF, etc…). Source: Nokiatech Github.io page.


Formats and extensibility
Base container file formatISOBMFFTIFFRIFFTIFF
Lossy compressionYes (HEVC)Yes (JPEG)NoNoYes (VP8)YesYesYes (HEVC)
Lossless compressionYes (HEVC)Yes (TIFF Rev 6.0)Yes (PNG)Yes (GIF)Yes (VP8L)YesYesYes (HEVC)
Extensible to other coding formatsYesYesNoNoNoYesYesNo
Metadata format (on top of internal)Exif, XMP, MPEG-7ExifExif, XMPExif, XMPJPX, (XMP)Exif, XMP
Extensible to other metadata formatsYesNoNoNoNoNoYes (XML-based)Yes
Other media types (audio, text, etc.)YesAudioNoNoNoNoYesNo
Multi-picture features
Multiple images in the same fileYesNoNoYesYesNoYesYes
Image sequences / animationsYesNoNoYesYesNoYesYes
Image codingYesNoNoNoNoNoNoYes
Derived images
Multiple-of-90-degree rotationsYesYesNoNoNoYesYesNo
Extensible to other editing operationsYesNoNoNoNoNoNoNo
Auxiliary picture information
Transparency (alpha plane)YesNoYesNoYesYesYesYes
Thumbnail imageYesYesNoNoNoYesYesYes

I had no idea you could embed audio into JPEG files until today.

HEIF files normally use .heic or .heif extension, and support has been implemented in macOS High Sierra and iOS 11, and it’s coming to Android P and Windows 10 Build 17123. Nokia has also released an open source JavaScript HEIF writer/reader with the code available on Github.

Via Liliputing

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3 years ago

So they made image format based on video format that can also hold video.

3 years ago

@Tesla They made a new image format that provides better image quality compared to JPEG at the same or lower size. It’s well known that JPEG sucks here and that’s the reason JPEG2000 has been invented… yeah, as the name suggests back in 2000. Nobody is using it since all browser vendors except Apple boycott it: https://caniuse.com/#feat=jpeg2000 Another nice feature is transparency in images. Problem already solved long ago since PNG provides such an alpha channel mode (GIF too but only ugly 1-bit mode) but nobody is using PNGs with alpha channels since boycotted by Microsoft in IE for a… Read more »

itchy n scratchy
itchy n scratchy
3 years ago

Iknow its OT but:
the Bootlin Kickstarter campaign is about 1200€ short of reaching the stretch goal of h265 decoding on Allwinner. If anyone wants to contribute in the last minute: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bootlin/allwinner-vpu-support-in-the-official-linux-kernel

3 years ago

€579 needed for h265 playback, 8hrs to go.

3 years ago

Yeah, it is all rather sad. There is also BPG format mentioned in the last column. Great stuff, can replace most if not all real world needs. Can be used right now with JS decoder but no native browser support because of patents and royalties.

For now we are stuck with JPEG optimizers

3 years ago

Lots of people use alpha channel PNG, I dunno what you are talking about there.

In any case, this patented nonsense has no future. We already have free webp, and some other possibilities coming along like FLIF

And people use webm already to replace large animated gifs

3 years ago

Poor quality is part of the charm of GIFs.